MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State defensive back/kick returner Morgan Burns has plenty of speed to burn and he used Tuesday’s Pro Day workout to prove it.
Burns, the 2015 Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, clocked a blistering 4.38 unofficial time on his first 40-yard dash, and then followed with a 4.34 in in front of NFL scouts and representatives from 20 teams.
“That’s about what I ran last spring,” Burns said. “I actually had a goal to try and break 4.3, but that’s extremely difficult. As long as I hit the 4.3s, I was going to be happy either way.”
The 5-11, 201-pound Burns didn’t receive an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine in late February.
But his 4.34 40-yard dash would have tied for the second-fastest time among the defensive backs in Indianapolis, and the 4.38 would have ranked as the fifth-fastest time.
Burns, who also posted 21 repetitions on the bench press, said he didn’t see any noticeable reactions among the scouts after his clocked performances. But he also had to quickly focus on drills specific to his position at cornerback.
He then spent time at the conclusion of position drills to field kickoffs from a jugs machine for scouts representing the Chiefs, Bengals, Jets, Eagles, Colts, Titans, Cardinals, Ravens, Jaguars, 49ers, Saints, Lions, Broncos, Falcons, Buccaneers, Rams, Chargers, Patriots, Texans and Browns.
Burns displaying his return skills to NFL talent evaluators came with the territory when considering his 1,138 yards returned on 34 attempts established a new school record.
He added four kickoff return touchdowns to cap a stellar senior season with numerous awards, including first-team All-Big 12 as a returner and second-team All-American at the returner position as voted by The Associated Press.
When his Pro Day workout finished, the praise arrived.
“I had a few (scouts) after all the drills say, ‘You ran well, your drills went really well,’” Burns said with a smile. “I got some good feedback after everything was over.”
And he acknowledged representatives from the Chiefs spent time with him after the workout.
“They had me doing some little test, answer some questions, and that’s kind of all they did,” Burns said. “I don’t know what test it was, but it had shapes, dots and stuff.”
Burns, whom NFLDraftScout.com and CBS Sports project as a fifth-round pick, said he is relieved to have the Pro Day behind him.
He will now continue training and focus on preparing for the NFL Draft, which could include predraft visits.
“Probably let my agent take care of that,” Burns said. “I haven’t really talked to him too much to him about that, so I’m assuming probably sometime this week we’ll probably discuss that.”
Fullback Glenn Gronkowski was satisfied with his 4.71 time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, so he elected to not run Tuesday.
He preferred to focus on another area to showcase his skills.
“Just ran routes, not a lot of other stuff,” Gronkowski said. “I haven’t been able to show much of hands, so to get out there and show that I can catch and I can run routes was probably really beneficial for me.”
The 6-2, 239-pound Gronkowski, who ranks as the No. 1 fullback prospect for NFLDraftScout.com and CBS Sports, projects as a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick.
But he could also find himself playing an H-back role or tight end at the next level. Showing he can do more than play fullback and catch the football is essential when considering he had just 369 yards receiving and five touchdowns on 15 catches during his college career at K-State.
And at least one team showed interest by scheduling him for a predraft visit.
“Just the Browns, right now,” Gronkowski said. “I’m flying in on the 20th, so just that right now and we’ll see what else comes from it.”
SECOND TIME AROUND
Former K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller and quarterback Jake Waters participated in the Pro Day workout with something to prove.
Mueller, who spent time on the Chargers practice squad the past season, made the move to linebacker his first go in the NFL. He will now do something different on offense based on what he was asked to do Tuesday.
“A lot of teams want to see me at fullback,” Mueller said. “If that’s the cards I’m dealt with, then if teams are calling and want to see me at fullback, would love the chance or opportunity to prove that I can do that.”
Mueller recorded a 4.8 unofficial time in the first 40-yard dash he ran, but made a vast improvement on his second attempt.
“I believe some scouts had me down at a 4.69, 4.71, 4.74, is kind of what I heard,” Mueller said. “I did a lot better on my second 40 time … I wanted to get in the 4.7s, and I believe I did that today, and I was able to show that I could get out and run.”
If Mueller wanted to prove he could run, Waters desired to show he could sling the football around the field in front of talent evaluators from around the league.
“I didn’t run or do anything like that, but I threw for the scouts to the guys and it was great,” Waters said. “I had my own personal Pro Day last year, but I wasn’t able to throw in front of all the scouts and have a bunch of receivers, so it was a great, great experience.”
Waters signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jaguars before closing out the preseason with the Seahawks last year.
The former K-State quarterback said his biggest takeaway from last season surrounded knowing everything about a playbook, and he hopes to apply it should he get another opportunity.
“Your football knowledge has to increase because once you get to that level, everyone can play,” Waters said. “And it’s all about what you know, how fast you can go through the reads, blocking, schemes, protections, everything. You name it, you need to know it.”
For Mueller, a taste of the NFL on the Chargers practice squad left him hungrier for another chance to prove he can make it.
“Since being released by San Diego, I had visits with the Colts and the Jets towards the end of the season, nothing really popped for me,” Mueller said. “I had other opportunities to play in Canada and do the Major League Football, but for me since I got a taste of the NFL, it’s NFL or die for me. I’m going to chase the dream.”